How to improve your Sight reading

Sight Reading





In 1848, the composer Schumann published a list of “House Rules and Maxims for Young Musicians”.  One of his maxims states, “You must reach a point where you can hear music from the printed page”.


In truth, many students have a vague idea of how to approach this aspect of music skill properly. Usually this is done through arduous repetitions playing the same sight-reading pieces over and over again. Also they tend to focus on this area only near their practical exam period.


Students often ask how they can improve their sight-reading ? This is a great question, but it’s also one that often gets answered with the a vague, apathetic answer “just sight-read more”. No matter how well-intentioned, it is not going to help them improve.  Trying blindly to improve sight-reading skills by doing it over and over again is definitely not going to help.


Here are 8 simple tips on how to sight read music properly and improve.  

1.Study the music first

Look through the piece.  Concentrate and focus. Note especially the following:

-      key signature

-      time signature

-      steps & skips

-      patterns & structure

-      accidentals & rests

-      dynamics


2. Visualize the note locations

Develop a sense of keyboard topography and hand-placement.  Locate and transfer the feel of the notes from the music piece to the keyboard.  Keep your eyes on the score rather than on the keyboard.


3.Sing the melody silently

You may either use solfege (do-re-mi etc) or sing in your head “la, la, la ,,,” to get the feel of the melodic line.


4.Choose a comfortable speed

Begin playing with both hands at a convenient speed.  


5.Count slowly and accurately

Rhythm is the main culprit in most student’s sight reading problems. Choose a good tempo and count properly.  Keep a steady rhythm.


6.  Look ahead

Get into the habit of continually looking ahead at the notes and rhythms coming up.  Keep an eye a beat or two ahead of the notes whilst playing.


7.Don’t stop

Even if a mistake is made, keep on going and don’t stop till the end is reached.  Remember to keep the music flowing.


8.Practise on each piece twice only

If too many mistakes are made, find easier music.   If successful, go on to more progressively challenging pieces.


A Final Word of Advice

Always maintain a good posture to play with ease and balance. Avoid unnecessary tension.  When a mistake is made, do not flinch.  Let those wrong notes be supported by a more beautiful tone and good intonation.  Using suitable duet pieces, try sight-reading and playing together with others – with the teacher or with other students.  Change parts. The student will be amazed at how refreshing, enjoyable and enriching this experience can be !

Remember - patience, persistence and daily practice are the keys.
  Practice smart, not hard.


Written by Mr Thomas Tan, MEd

Master Trainer, Seimpi School of Music

Lecturer, Seimpi Academy

Sign Up For Our Mailing List!

News List